03/28/2015 12:40PM

Secret Circle ends losing streak in Golden Shaheen

Dubai Racing Club/Andrew Watkins
Secret Circle (right), under jockey Victor Espinoza, beats Super Jockey by a head Saturday in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Bob Baffert won his first Dubai Golden Shaheen when Secret Circle broke a six-race losing streak dating to November 2013, holding off longshot Super Jockey to win the Group 1, $2 million dirt sprint by a head.

Baffert ended up in the hospital after suffering a heart attack during his last trip here in 2012, when his World Cup starter, Game On Dude, ran poorly. That was the case with many of Baffert’s starters during the era of synthetic-surface racing at Meydan, which began when the racecourse opened in 2010 and ended with the installation of a sand-based dirt track after the 2014 World Cup card. Baffert stayed home in California this year, and Secret Circle probably would have, too, had the Meydan main track not been changed.

Dana Barnes, the longtime Baffert work rider who traveled with the horse, was bullish on Secret Circle from the moment he arrived here, and he validated her confidence. It was the Hong Kong horse Lucky Nine who broke sharply and was sent to the lead, surprising Victor Espinoza on Secret Circle, who was one gate to the inside. Espinoza might have expected to be in front, but he quickly recalibrated, taking a light hold of Secret Circle and letting the speed go on.

“When I got to the outside and was in the clear, I was confident,” Espinoza said.

The pace was not lightning-fast, and coming to the turn, Secret Circle tugged on the reins, ready to attack, but Espinoza coaxed him to patience. “The stretch here is a little long, so I had to wait,” he said.

But when Secret Circle was given his cue with a little less than a quarter-mile to race, he disposed of Lucky Nine and went clear, threatening to turn the Golden Shaheen into a route. One horse, unheralded 30-1 shot Super Jockey, was making headway, but as he neared Secret Circle, the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner stiffened his resolve, holding off the challenge.

Rich Tapestry came in third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Super Jockey. Secret Circle was timed in 1:10.64 for 1,200 meters, or about six furlongs, on a fast track, setting a course record.

Big Macher broke poorly and ran decently to finish fifth, but the other well-backed American in the race, Salutos Amigos, clunked home eighth.

Secret Circle, a 6-year-old horse by Eddington, was a top early-season 3-year-old in 2012, didn’t race between April of that year and October 2013, and won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in his second start back from the extended break. Secret Circle ran well in all six of his subsequent starts, save a dull fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Midnight Lute in December, but he was back to better form Jan. 31 in the Palos Verdes – and, finally, back to the winner’s circle Saturday night in Dubai.